Delhi under fire

Both the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party came to power on the plank of good governance. But, the series of industrial tragedies in unlicenced factories in the national capital show that neither party, which between them control all organs of the state, has functioned. The BJP government at the Centre controls the lieutenant governor, who has all the powers of the state, as well as the Delhi Police and Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Further, the BJP runs all the three municipal corporations of Delhi. The AAP government is in charge of the licencing for industrial units, and has a team of officials mandated to inspect and certify everything. Yet, in a month, three factories in the city caught fire, causing eight deaths and injuring a dozen workers.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

In all three cases, it was found that the owners had locked the employees inside, and no other exit was open. The Delhi Fire Services has given a scathing report saying that a large number of industries and high-rise buildings are not following proper fire safety precautions, and a majority are virtual death traps. The multiplicity of agencies itself has contributed to the regulatory mess in the capital as the only authority who can pull up all agencies, except the police, is Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, a former IAS officer known for his efficient track record. The police reports directly to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who has little time to look minutely at how the country’s largest urban police force functions.

However, continuous prodding by the Supreme Court has made the Central government take corrective action. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed setting up a task force of representatives of all agencies under the leadership of the vice chairman of the DDA. The task force will look at encroachments and irregular constructions, giving monthly reports. But, no penal provisions have been fixed to make violators accountable.

Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta are behind the sealing drive launched against unauthorised constructions in residential areas, including shops. But the industries, factories, fire and police departments have not been involved so far in identifying buildings where labourers work and sleep, under the control of the owners. Many are migrant labourers from rural areas.

The political commitment to make Delhi a regulated city has not yet come from the political bosses at the Centre, the state or the corporations.